9 things they don’t tell you about Diabetes
1) Everyone is different!
Don’t feel bad when your friend says that their blood sugars are great when they eat a certain way and it doesn’t work for you. Everyone’s experience with diabetes is different and unique to them! Your blood sugar reacts differently based on your genetics, based on how much insulin your pancreas is still able to produce, and based on how much “insulin resistant” you are!
Studies have even shown that the bacteria that lives in your gut changes how your blood sugars respond to certain foods. For example – one group of people with diabetes might be able to eat ice cream with no significant rise in blood sugars, whereas the other group will see their blood sugars skyrocket! All based on the make-up of their gut microbiome.
2) Consider seeing a Specialist.
The role of primary care providers is to be knowledgeable about a lot of different medical conditions so that they can prevent diseases from starting in the first place, identify when something serious needs attention, or to help treat acute concerns (such as a bronchitis).
Even if your diabetes is controlled, it may be appropriate to see an endocrinologist or a healthcare provider (such as a Nurse Practitioner, Physician Assistant, or Pharmacist) that specializes in diabetes. They can provide specialized advice on the newest diabetes technologies (such as continuous glucose monitors and new meters) and medication options that may help prevent worsening diabetes down the road.
3) Diet isn’t the only culprit.
Sure, being mindful of your food choices should be #1 in managing blood sugars. But counting carbs isn’t everything … the amount of protein and fat you eat with the carbohydrates can also change how your blood sugar responds. A piece of toast (carbs) causes a different spike than even a piece of toast with some butter (fat) on it!
Stress, anxiety, pain, and poor sleep can also cause raise blood sugars. Some people even notice fluctuations based on weather changes!!
4) Certain exercises can increase blood sugars.
Working out and being active is the best way to burn off sugar already in your body. Exercise helps naturally sensitize the insulin your body makes. However, some workouts (although ultimately beneficial) may temporarily spike blood sugars. Specifically, high intensity intervals (like sprints) or weightlifting and resistance training can release adrenaline hormone which can indirectly increase sugars. However, remember that any rise is temporary and any exercise will lower blood sugars over time and support insulin health.
5) Natural therapies can help!
Time and time again, research has shown that specific herbs, vitamins, and minerals (when used at the correct doses!!) can be very beneficial in lowering blood sugars and helping with insulin function. Cinnamon, Banaba, Milk Thistle are herbs that naturally sensitize insulin. Chromium and Magnesium can help the body metabolize sugar and convert it into energy. Vitamin B12 and Bilberry provide antioxidants for eye and nerve health – both especially important in people with diabetes. Some research shows these natural ingredients can be even as effective as certain prescription medications if used correctly!
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6) Medications don’t mean failure.
Sometimes the pancreas is damaged and just can’t make the insulin it needs. If this is the case, medications can be essential and even lifesaving to replace that insulin the body is missing – regardless of diet, exercise, or other lifestyle variables.
The MOST important thing is to get sugars under control as quickly as possible, to avoid further damage to the body. If you need medications to initially stabilize your blood sugars, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be needed forever. Actually, better blood sugars up front generally means the opposite! Because less damage is done, research shows you are less likely to need medications or insulin in the future.
Some medications can also help preserve the pancreas’ ability to make insulin (which your doctor may recommend if you are at high risk of diabetes) and have benefits outside of just blood sugar lowering. Many new medications are also approved to reduce the risk of heart failure and dying of a heart event.
7) Find support!
Managing diabetes is hard work. Consider joining an online community or support group to get ideas and tips of what has worked well for others and connect with people who are living the same challenges you are. Check out the community and postings through American Diabetes Association for a starting point: https://community.diabetes.org/home.
8) It’s more than blood sugars.
Being diagnosed with diabetes comes with an increased risk of heart events such as heart attack, stroke, or heart failure. Because of this, American Diabetes Association has stricter cholesterol and blood pressure goals for people living with Type 2 Diabetes. That is why often your doctor will also recommend a statin, blood pressure medication, and sometimes a daily baby aspirin to lower your risk as much as possible.
9) It’s OK to have a bad day!
Did you eat 4 pancakes for breakfast? Don’t make it a habit, but don’t feel guilty and let it propel yourself into a downward spiral of continuous bad decisions. Having higher than usual blood sugars occasionally isn’t going to “ruin” your A1C or significantly increase your risk of damage as long as you focus on making your next decision a good one and aim for better discipline and control in the bigger picture.